A sanctuary for Fartuun and her sons

Wednesday 27 May 2015

 Sacha Myers/Save the Children

Fartuun’s* eyes well with tears when she speaks about her hopes for her children’s future. As a single mother living in Cairo, Egypt, she faces many challenges and worries she won’t be able to provide for her children. 

“I face many problems because I am a single mother and I have to work to support my children,” Fartuun says. “I can’t provide my children with everything they need because I’m on my own. 

“The house we’re living in is shared…I’m living in one room with my children and another woman is living in another room with her children.”

Fartuun fled her home in Somalia because it wasn’t safe for her children.

“My husband was working with the Somali government and I was pregnant at the time,” she says. “One day my husband just left and I haven’t seen him since 2005. 

“Because of the war in Somalia, it’s not safe there and there is no education. There are explosions all the time and so many problems. I want a safe place for my children.”

Save the Children is working with vulnerable people like Fartuun and her children in Cairo, providing them with essential support and access to education and health services. Our Child-Centered Services Centre is a sanctuary for Fartuun and her two boys. 

“The centre is good for my children’s energy. We live in a small house, there are only two rooms and they can’t move. So at the centre they can play and get release all their energy,” she says.

“At first, my children were fighting with the other children because of the different nationalities but the teachers sorted it out without using physical punishment. 

“They’ve also learnt a lot of new things. They go to play football twice a week. We went to the opera together and we had a Mother’s Day celebration and we got gifts, which was really nice.”

Save the Children’s centre also provides mothers like Fartuun with information and advice on how they can best support their children as they adapt to their new life. 

“They give us good information here,” Fartuun says. “The parenting sessions teach us about how children develop and about nutrition. I’ve learnt a lot of things. I used to be very stressed with my children but now I’ve learnt to keep my anger inside of me and to listen to my children. 

“I learnt about discipline and that I shouldn’t use any kind of physical punishment. I didn’t use it anyway but it’s good to know how to discipline children without it. If they do something wrong now, I take away something they like. I’m calm with my children now.”

Mashel*, a psychologist who works at one of Save the Children’s centres, says children in Egypt face many issues growing up. 

“There’s often not enough feeling between the parents and their children. Children face neglect and violence. They also face violence at school,” she explains.  

“We improve children’s life skills and self-confidence and communication. If a child has bigger issues we have individual sessions with them or they are referred to another centre for support. We follow up on them and make sure they are ok. We also do trips and activities. We teach parents how children of different ages develop and how to manage stress.”

The Child-Centered Services Center is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The center provides vital education, health support and psychosocial care for 250 registered children. The programme has also established a child protection committee within the local community who work with families to raise awareness about protecting children from violence and abuse.   


*Name changed to protect identity.